Saving Waste Saving Time Saving Money
CASE STUDY: RACAL ACOUSTICS
Racal Acoustics was struggling with the maintenance of over 13,100 pages of Manufacturing Instructions, and coping with the
manufacturing problems that errors and omissions created. They turned to VisualFactory.NET to solve this large and growing problem.
NoMuda introduced lean thinking into the documentation generation and together with VisualFactory.NET brought massive savings to
Racal Acoustics; a 90% reduction in instruction pages (over 10,000 physical pages) leading to a combined benefit of over five man years
of labour. Racal Acoustics now enjoy far greater documentation flexibility whilst maintaining rigid rules of authorisation and
Company Background The Problem
Racal Acoustics is a manufacturer of specialist acoustic Although all MIs were written within a standard document
ancillary equipment, mainly for the military and emergency template, there was still no unified approach for writing the
services markets. Established in the early 1950’s, they also content of the MI within a particular product family. This led to
manufacture for the commercial markets, mainly dealing with assembly variations for similar processes within the same family.
the aviation sector. It also meant that within a single product range, between 60% to
85% of each MI may be identical, (although not necessarily
The company has facilities in the UK and USA. Their products presented in a consistent order, from MI to MI).
are sold worldwide, and see service in conditions ranging
from the arctic to the Sahara to equatorial rainforests, and are Other issues to be considered regarding the previous system
deployed in the air, on land, and on the sea. include :
Manufacturing Documentation in Recent Times ❖ The response time for MI update or correction was in the
Over the last ten years, Manufacturing Instructions (MIs) had order of weeks.
been generated electronically using desktop publishing
software, with line drawings and pictures inserted as PCX or ❖ The number of different software packages used in the
Jpeg files. Master PageMaker files were held on a secure preparation, publishing, and administration of the MIs.
server and PDF copies were freely available for viewing or
printout at most computer terminals throughout the ❖ The increased learning time required by assembly operators,
company. Due to the labour intensive nature of the system, because of the inconsistencies in presentation of MIs.
the number of stages involved, the past uncontrolled growth
in style and content of the MIs, and the lack of adherence to Benefits from the Introduction of VisualFactory.NET
any cohesive structure or template for document generation, The adoption of VisualFactory.NET would only provide the fullest
the previous system became inefficient and unwieldy. benefit to Racal Acoustics if the philosophy of writing MIs was
revised. NoMuda’s experience with implementing mass
Summary of the Current Situation customisation helped in developing a new, leaner approach.
There are currently thirteen main families of equipment in
production, and within each family, there are a number of ❖ For each of the thirteen main product families, a master set
variants – anywhere from 10 to 150. Racal provide a range of of assembly operations was generated. Each set of assembly
unique products, and because they have to interface with operations would then cover all the assembly processes
many different systems, each interface has to be tailored required to build any one of the product variants.
mechanically and electrically to suit each customer’s needs.
❖ By using this technique, it is estimated that the number of MI
This situation has a major impact on the generation and pages required to be stored will fall from 13,100 pages, down
control of MIs : to a total of 1,200 pages. This represents a saving of over
❖ The equivalent estimated time to generate and maintain
❖ Over 570 product variants (each averaging 23 operations) production documentation for the 570 variants is likely to
to be documented. fall to around 5.1 man years of work (250 working weeks),
over a ten year product life. This represents a saving of
❖ 13,100 MI pages to be written, and updated throughout almost three man years of labour.
the average ten year product life.
The response time for MI update or correction using VF.NET will
❖ Estimated time to generate and maintain production be minimal as a single operation is used repeatedly. Each
documentation for the 570 variants is likely to be in excess operation is called up wherever needed so there is no chance of
of eight man years of work (390 working weeks), over a ten any variant being missed out during an update.
year product life.
Saving Waste Saving Time Saving Money
CASE STUDY: RACAL ACOUSTICS
Benefits continued... The Future
There are further factors to be considered when estimating It is the intention of Racal Acoustics to move towards a paperless
the total impact of the VF.NET system: factory. Each production bench will have a flat screen monitor
linked to a network PC, and each operator will be able to call up
❖ Significant improvements in the configuration and issue every relevant production document, including manufacturing
control of manufacturing instructions - VF.NET keeps track instructions, assembly drawings, machinery operation
of the issue number of individual tasks within an handbooks, health and safety data sheets, all at the click of a
operation, and each route (which has a number of hyperlink. VF.NET will become the first and possibly only point
operations within it), has a version number, as well as the of contact for the operator with all other Racal systems.
drawing issue number. This allows the tracking of any
change in assembly procedure, down to operation level, Summary
and allows the exact point of embodiment of any change The adoption of VF.NET for the creation of Manufacturing
to be identified. Instructions was a decision driven by a number of
considerations – listed below are some of the more important:
❖ A 90% reduction in the volume of data required to be
stored on network servers.
❖ To provide a more manageable and flexible solution to the
❖ A 90% reduction in the number of MI pages to be generation and maintenance of manufacturing instructions.
maintained and updated.
❖ To reduce the labour costs involved with MI generation and
❖ The total elimination of the need to generate and hold maintenance.
PDFs of each variant’s MI (VF.NET does this automatically,
on demand, and uses the latest available data each time ❖ To be able to respond more rapidly to the changing
an MI is generated). requirements of a Lean Manufacturing system.
❖ The associated reduction of administration and control of ❖ To increase the quality and consistency of the production
the data. documentation available.
❖ The reduction in the number of different software ❖ To reduce the learning curve associated with the
packages used in the preparation and administration of introduction of a new product variant.
the VF.NET MIs.
The investment in the software will be matched by a larger
❖ A reduction in the learning time required by assembly investment in time to implement the system, but the potential
staff, because of the consistent presentation of operation returns far outweigh the costs. VisualFactory.NET is versatile and
content and position within an MI family. adaptable enough to grow with the business, and is seen as a
valuable asset in the move towards a lean, paperless and more
❖ The reduction of opportunities for engineering updates to environmentally aware manufacturing facility.
be missed off MIs.
❖ The possibility of allowing subcontracting assembly
partners to access the MI documentation electronically,
thus avoiding costly document preparation and
administration on site at Racal.
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